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Organizing for easier access

Information that is stored in an organized manner is much easier to access. For example, if you want to know if a certain name is in a list, it is much faster if the list is sorted alphabetically. This same principle applies to your mind. If you remember information by encoding it in a certain way, it can be much easier to recall it later, or even recall specific pieces of information.

Organize information for recall

How information is organized will lend itself more to certain ways of accessing than others. For example, if you were asked how many people on the list were female, or had names that rhymed with Ned, you would have to search the whole list. On the other hand, if the names were organized by gender first and each gender sorted alphabetically, you could easily answer questions such as how many males are on the list, is the name ‘Jen’ on the list, and so on.

Organizing by categories

Organizing information by categories can lend itself to Chunking. For example, trying to remember the following list of items can be difficult: apple, blue, banana, novel, red, newspaper, pineapple, yellow, magazine.

However, by organizing the items into categories it becomes easier to learn:

Fruit: apple, banana, pineapple

Colors: blue, red, yellow

Things to read: novel, newspaper, magazine

Serial position effect

It is important to be aware that when information is ordered in a list, the items at the beginning and end of the list are easier to learn and stay in your memory better than items in the middle. This is called the serial position effect. This is also influenced by the amount of time between learning and recall.

Keep this idea in mind and learn the more important things either first or last. Or, if you can’t change the order you learn them in, spend more time learning the items in the middle.

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